Skip to main content

Full text of "The Cambridge Natural History"

See other formats

GREENLAND WHALE                              359

,<pjictj. It is absolutely confined to the Arctic Ocean, and reported
t*'currenees 021 our coasts are due to a confusion with -R av.stralisi
to !>e presently described. At the ** Devil's Dyke/' near Brighton,
there is, or was, the skull of a most tiagrant Eorqual, which is
carefully labelled " Greenland \Vhale.*"      This "Whale   grows   to  a
length of 50, GO, rarely 70 feet. It is black in colour., save
fur a white patch on the under side of the jaw. The head is
quite one-third of the body in length. There are a few scattered
hairs at the extremity of the jaws. The length of time which
tills "Whale can endure immersion lias been variously stated. The
utmost limit of endurance Is stated by Scamiuon to be one hour
and twenty inhmtes. The pursuit of this Whale is attended by
dangers, not in the least because the animal is itself fierce and
ready to attack, but simply on account of the velocity with
which, ami the great depth to which, it will dive, and also to the
lin'^e muscular force which Is exerted in its struggles to free itself
irom the harpoons. It is indeed an extremely timid beast. It
lias been remarked that " a lard aliglitlngr upon Its back some-
times sets it off in great* agitation and terror." Combined with
this timidity of disposition is an intense affection for its young,
" which would do honour," observed Seoresby, " to the superior
intelligence of human beings.*' Yet that trader and observer
goes on to remark that te the value of the prize . . . cannot be
sacrificed to feelings of compassion " ! The fact that this "Whale
and its congener, J31. aitstralis, feed among swarms of minute
pelagic creatures, which they engulf in their irage mouths, led
the ancients to believe and assert that they fed upon water only.
When the Whale feeds it moves along -with, some velocity, taking
in huge mouthfuls of sea water with, the contained organisms,
•which are then strained off by the whalebone and left stranded
upon the tongue.
Unlike its congener, the southern Right "Whale, -R. australis^
is world-wide in distribution, avoiding only the Arctic regions.
Where the Greenland Whale is found JK. australis does not exist.
The principal differences which it shows from JB* m,y$ti&etn® are
firstly in the relatively shorter head and shorter and coarser
whalebone. In the second place it has more ribs, fifteen pairs
as against thirteen; but there is apparently some little confusion
In the matter of ribs. An additional rib at the end of the series
1 The naxxne tHat Has priority seemst to be gletcwtM®*